Drivers React To NASCAR's Secret Fines For Speaking Out

Let's be honest: Pretty much every driver who gets interviewed today at Pocono is going to get asked about officials secretly fining drivers for speaking out against NASCAR.

We'll compile their reactions here and update them throughout the day as more drivers weigh in with their thoughts.

TONY STEWART

Q: Ryan Newman said today he was fined by NASCAR. As his team owner, did you know about that or was this something that was given directly to Ryan? Do you think they were right in doing this?

Honestly, I don't know what's right and what's wrong on this topic. What everyone has to remember is that NASCAR's done a good job of building this sport over 60 years, and between everyone in this room and in the garage we have all done our part to try to break this sport down over the last four, five years. We're all to blame. As drivers, we're just as much to blame as anybody else. 

At the same time, I'm going to blame you guys and you guys have to take some of the responsibility for it. When you finally tell someone that the racing is bad enough, long enough, you're going to convince people that it really is. The result of that is not having as many people in the grandstand because of that.

We all have to take the blame for it, and with that in my opinion, that is what put NASCAR in the position they're in right now. We all have to take the responsibility for it. The facts show that the racing is better than it's ever been. It's more competitive than it has ever been. Everybody has gotten so spoiled over the last 10-15 years that we've all lost sight of what we've really got here.

Everybody sitting here and listening to this right now makes a living off this sport, myself included, and we're all shooting ourselves in the foot because we're convincing some of these people that this stuff is bad. It may not always be perfect, every scenario may not always be perfect but every time we write something bad about it, or talk about it from our standpoint, all we do is break this sport down and it doesn't deserve that.

We're all making a pretty good living, and we're lucky to have our jobs doing what we do. In my opinion, I think what NASCAR is doing is very appropriate.

I didn't know (about the fine). I'm sorry I didn't answer the question. I did not know. I think it was just between them and Ryan.

JIMMIE JOHNSON

Q: Discuss the secret fines for comments detrimental to the sport.

I look at this being a private matter and think that it's actually a good thing. The fact that they went to the drivers that they didn't like what they were saying and penalized them and fined them and talked to them about the comments they made and how it could hurt our sport was good.

I don't think that it's good to have everything out in the press because all we continue to do is focus on negative things time and time again and the circus builds around it and it goes on and on and on. I think that they had a great attempt to handle this behind closed doors and some things should be kept from the media. There are things that should take place between NASCAR and the teams and NASCAR and the drivers that isn't public knowledge.

We have so many other good things to talk about in our sport. Why is this even an issue? At the end of the day, NASCAR was doing everything they could to not have drivers slam their sport because we've all seen the comments that drivers make instantly and immediately impact the fans and how they're involved in our sport. So NASCAR is just trying to help us not hurt ourselves. We're all walking around with loaded guns shooting ourselves in the foot from time to time. They're just trying to take that gun away.

Q: What were you trying to say? Tony Stewart was just in here blaming the media for the small crowds.

At the end of the day, it's not a bad idea for NASCAR to pull some guys aside and say, 'Hey, look – shut up, OK? And (due to) the fact that you're being an idiot and saying things that are hurtful to the sport, we're going to penalize you.' I don't see that as being a problem because now, we've uncovered something that has this whole negative impression that's going to hit and has been out there amongst our fans that there's something secretive going on. That's bad! That leaves people with a bad impression of the sport and that's really what I was getting at.

I think that whoever the drivers were, it would be great if they just didn't say anything and really listened to what was being told to them and the actions that were there, and moved on. It was supposed to be quiet for a reason, and now it's turned into something negative. And it's bad for not only those drivers, but for NASCAR and the sport and now the fans will have this question mark in their head (about) what's going on.

KEVIN HARVICK

Q: What are your thoughts with NASCAR's 'Have at it, boys' and trying to open things up and then giving fines for drivers making comments?

I think if you got up here and said ESPN sucked, you'd get fired. In the end, it's everyone's responsibility to make sure that the sport is going in the right direction. 'Have at it, boys' on the racetrack is different than off the racetrack and having open reign on whatever you want to say about the sport, because the last I checked most of us wouldn't be near as lucky having the jobs that we have if we didn't have this sport.

So it's partially the responsibility of all of us to make sure that it goes in the right direction. So if you've got something to say, it's very easy to pick up the phone or walk over to the trailer and go express your feelings to somebody. And it's just not the right place to do it through this room (media center).

Q: Do you think that by secretly fining drivers, it almost makes NASCAR look worse than if they had just come out with it and said, 'This is why the drivers are being fined' instead of trying to hide it?

Well, I think when you're hiding something you keep it to yourself. But there are a lot of people that are involved in decisions like that and lots of people know. Honestly, I don't think it's anybody's business. I don't think it's your business or anybody in this room's business. I think it's better to keep it between the teams because it's simpler.

Q: We don't know what the secret penalties are or what you're supposed to say, so why should we believe what any driver or NASCAR official says?

Good point. Don't care.

KYLE BUSCH

Q: Why do you think NASCAR has fined the drivers?

You can't trash the sport. How long is it going to be here and why would you want to trash the sport? If you're going to trash it, that's kind of dumb.

Q: What do you think about NASCAR not announcing the fining of drivers for comments?

That's not my fight, I really don't care.

Q: Do you think NASCAR should be open about what can and cannot be said?

You can pretty much say whatever you want whenever you want, but when it comes down to the integrity of the sport and stuff, that's their soft spot. If you ever thought you were going to touch something that you shouldn't, that's where it's at. You can talk to them all you want in the NASCAR hauler, but when you do it on TV in front of all the fans and all the followers of this sport it doesn't do anything but hurt it. For me, I mentioned it earlier, it's not in my budget so I'm not going to say anything.

JEFF BURTON

Q: When you are getting out of the car and you are heated and you have something to say, is $50,000 going to be a real deterrent to you?

Yes, it is for me. That's a lot of money, man. Good God, 50 grand, that's a lot of money. It certainly would make me think.

Q: Isn't it a problem that you don't know what they got fined for so you don't know where the line is?

I think NASCAR made it clear to us this winter where the line was going to be drawn and I think I understand where that line is. There is nothing that I have ever said in the 16 years I've been doing this that I feel like would have subjected me to a fine. So, when Brian (France) was making it clear to the group that I was with of what would be fined, I was thinking about, 'OK, how does that affect me?' and I just didn't think I would be affected by it to be quite honest. So, I hadn't put any more thought into it because of that.

Q: Some fans were more upset it was secret than that there were fines. Do you think that hurts NASCAR and they should come out and tell what is going on?

It is an interesting dilemma. When it's 'Boys, have at it' but not in this case, I think the fans want to know what is going on. Hey, I don't know. Again, I don't have a problem with NASCAR telling us 'Why air out thing in the public that you can come in the trailer or you can go to Daytona or go to Concord and have a conversation about it and be productive and make something happen?' Versus just getting on the television and ranting about something that is a complicated issue but the case you are presenting makes it sound like it is real simple and NASCAR is just out to get you.

There have been some incidents over the years that people handled themselves in a way that isn't productive. It is not to say that you shouldn't tell the fans the truth, but you should be working behind the scenes on the ugly trying to make it pretty rather than just complaining about it. It's a fine line. 

Q: Well, what can't you talk about? ... Why should we believe anything NASCAR says or anything the drivers say if we know that there is some secret penalty out there?

Well, that's a valid point. And I hear your point and I understand what you're saying. The only thing I can tell you is that, and I can only speak for myself; when I feel compelled to have a conversation about something, I'm going to have the conversation. And I think I can do that in a way that we can talk about an issue and it's productive. I'm not in fear of being penalized for what I say because I think I can say it in a way that will be understood and I think I can say it in a way that could create a productive conversation.

I think having the ability to have a conversation and talk about an issue, that's a good thing. But the way you do it determines if it's productive or destructive. So if you feel like you have to talk about something, there's a reason for that. Some of it's just emotion; sometimes we all say things we kind of wish we hadn't said. But a lot of times...in that situation you're trying to express yourself for a reason. So, don't hide it. Don't ignore it, but do it in a way that can be productive. Do it in a way that you think can move the sport in a positive direction. And if you do that, I think there's almost nothing you (can't) talk about.

MATT KENSETH

Q: Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin were fined for comments they made. Will that change how you comment on NASCAR?

Yes and no. I think you always have to try to think about the big picture and think about your sponsors and think about your team, think about the sport, think about the fans. You always try to take that stuff into consideration when you say stuff, but yet there's a line there where you need to be yourself and say what you want when you're mad, and I don't think they're trying to stop that.

So I honestly don't know what those two would have said or what they got fined for, so I don't really know. If I knew what they said and what they got fined for that would help me a little bit. In other sports they do that. In the NFL, if you criticize officiating, I know that folks have been fined, so you've got to protect the sport, too.

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